I find myself wanting to write, and having little to say that can be written in story form. So it is I decided to write about my book ideas here, hoping that when and if they come out, people will read them. Perhaps afterwards I will write about those books I have written which have already been published or a few that were at least written. The first one is Tales from the Land of the Firebird Part I, a book of novellas and short stories about Communist and post-Communist Russia, Ukraine and Poland. The longest outline for this book is “The Firebird Unchained,” about censorship in Communist Russia. I also hope to touch on the situation in Ukraine including the sad history recorded in Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine and its echoes in the tragic rehash of that history under Putin. I also hope to write about the destruction of the entire Polish officer core under Stalin, too. I would write about other tragedies, but that will have to be Tales from the Land of the Firebird, Part II and Tales from the Land of the Firebird, Part III because my book must be out in a timely way to help Ukraine. I may not succeed in getting the book out in time, but I have to try.
The next book will be In Honor of Khashoggi, another collection of novellas and short stories set entirely in Arab countries. One of them will be about a journalist like Jamal Khashoggi and how he is murdered by the crown prince. Another will be “The Sheikh’s Wife” which I have had on the back burner for years but which has yet to be written; it will be about the widow of a Sheikh who runs a tea shoppe in Saudi Arabia. She is a regular Scheherazade, and the reason she is allowed to run her own business is because the men themselves love her stories. Another story is “Yusuf and Zuleika,” told as a poem, about an Arab merchant and a wife he picked up at a slave auction (this one will be set in the Medieval Arabic World). I plan to write another poem in the book, this one present day, about the Syrian refugee crisis and the little boy who was seen in a picture by The Huffington Post. (Or at least, I believe he was shown in The Huffington Post. Either way it was a horrific picture.)
My next two books will be purely selfish. The first one, Oz Revisited, is my telling sequel-for-adults of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Part of the book’s aim is to portray Baum’s vision as it really was. Though I am not a socialist or pacifist (I don’t know if I am a feminist), these were sides to L. Frank Baum’s personality that have been left out of the way he is remembered. I want to show both the insightfulness and limitations of L. Frank Baum’s vision for kids. I also want to write my own “answer” to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, the book which I see as attempting to debunk L. Frank Baum, the United States, and the very nature of good and evil. However, there is a balance I have to consider: L. Frank Baum denied his stories “moral” in the sense of being didactic. He claims that with the moralistic teaching of the school system, children need a place where they relax and have fun–and his books try to produce that place. In reality, L. Frank Baum’s books have little to do with proving God’s existence or the importance of believing in good or evil.
The next book will be Jeanie and the Gentle-Folk. Jeanie is an orphan raised by “Father Ogre” who found her on a grave after she resulted from an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. However, what she discovers is that Father Ogre intends to eat her. So she escapes into a place called “Other World,” the home of the fairies. She travels the imaginary landscape of our world–some people I invented, like the Lutheran Walfrid and his Jewish friend Benjamin, who are in perfect concord about everything except religion–and others who are taken from American folklore–Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Casey Jones. There are also characters some place in between like the Irish-American Eneas and African-American Peninah, tellers of the Brer Rabbit stories who are in love even though their marriage is illegal. Later in the book–I have written all of what is above in this book–I hope to include such figures as Scheherazade and Judge Ooka. Of course, there are also “spiritual” figures in the book: St. Francis, Rabia (a Muslim mystic) and the Besht (the Baal Shem Tov). And no book would be complete without villains, the ambiguous Baba Yaga, and the two dragons, the Red Dragon of Hate and the Black Dragon of Indifference. I look forward to further researching and writing this book.
Then there is another adult novel, Once Upon a Time When the World was Young, about two teenagers, Jeff and Sally, and how when Sally gets pregnant, Jeff marries Sally. Jeff will go on to fight in Vietnam before being stationed in Okinawa for a while. Spoiler: though it has its ups and downs, their marriage does survive. This is even as Jeff grows ever farther to the right, and his younger brother Billy functions as his left-wing foil. Really, Billy is more than a foil. Yet if Jeff becomes an engineer at an airplane plant and Sally’s only work is painting porcelain and rice paper (things she picked up in Japan when Jeff was stationed there), Billy studies the Amerindians, and after his first marriage tanks his second one lasts for the rest of his life. Both of Billy’s wives are professors; Billy despite having a PhD manages to get jobs both translating Amerindian texts for adults and children and teaching America’s Neighbors and English at the Middle School level. Yet the real plot of the book is how two brothers who love each other hurt each other, and how their anger at each other is reflected in politics.
The Small Press is, more or less, going to be about the Publishing business. The book begins with a character (I don’t know his name yet) who went to Harvard Business School and signed up for a job for a major media company. However, when he gets the job, he finds that rather than working to discover great film ideas (his dream), he is going to work with a man who owns a small press that was bought out by his company. The man cannot be dispensed with altogether because the man owns a sizeable amount of stock in the company, something like 49%. Some of you might have guessed: I got the idea from a movie I didn’t think particularly well of: In Good Company. I felt that the movie missed the real possible strength of the plot: the tension between a younger man managing an cantankerous old codger who knows more about his business but isn’t always open minded. More, it didn’t go into any of the gritty details of the industry it was supposed to be about. I felt that as a writer I knew a fair amount about publishing and I could make it come alive in this book. Like the movie, the young man is newly divorced by the time he gets to meet his new “employee” and there is a love interest in the daughter. Unlike in the movie, the daughter is graduating college soon, but rather than knowing what she is interested in doing plays a key role in explaining the practicalities of the business to her dad’s new “boss.”
Then I shall write a book for one of my Grandma’s: A History of Francis Westin Williams. That will be a book which I will leave to the reader’s imagination.
I hope I am not risking having my stories stolen by writing this.